If the radical idea to pack up your belongings into one bag and venture across the globe by yourself has ever crossed your mind, know you’re not alone. More and more every year, college students and twenty-somethings are deciding to take a leap of faith and try the whole backpacking thing whether it be for an extended vacation, a gap year or a semi-permanent move.
It undoubtedly takes a certain personality type to embark on such a journey, but with so many options regarding where to go, what to do and how to get there, anyone can give it a go. Sure, the idea of being in a foreign land where you may not speak the language and don’t have your usual companions by your side can be terror-inducing, but sometimes it takes stepping beyond the confines of your normal routine to realize what you’re truly capable of.
If you’ve ever dreamed of biking through the streets of Florence, skiing through the Swiss Alps, hiking along the mountainous trails of Nepal, or whatever activity it is that piques your wanderlust fancies, just do it: it’s that simple.
Cast aside your doubts, start saving the money necessary, book that flight and get packing. Need any further convincing? Here’s seven reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid to travel solo this year.
1. With current technology, it’s never been easier
Need to book a flight? Translate a sentence? Convert your currency? There’s an app for that. It’s 2018 and anything you could possibly need to ease you through your journey is right in the palm of your hand. Even when WiFi is scarce, several apps (like my personal favorite Google Maps) have certain functions that allow you to use it while offline. Some apps I would recommend downloading before you go include Google Translate, Hostelworld, Hopper, WhatsApp and XECurrency.
2. You’ll make like-minded friends
Chances are, no matter how much you love your friends back home, they likely share different interests and passions than you. When you’re far removed from your natural habitat and bouncing from country to country, you’ll meet others who love travel and learning about foreign cultures just as much as you do. Conversation with fellow nomads comes naturally when you’re around others who share similar experiences and outlooks on life. Be prepared to make lifelong friends from all parts of the world.
3. You are the master of your own agenda
Want to wake up at 4 a.m. and go watch the sunrise? Do it. Want to sleep all day and party all night? Do that. When your only responsibility is taking care of yourself, you can literally do whatever you want to, whenever you want to. You’re all alone and this is the time to discover what it is that truly makes you happy without anyone casting their expectations on you.
4. You’re forced to learn the language of the region
Maybe learning Spanish or French out of a textbook in high school wasn’t exactly your thing. That’s because it wasn’t practical or necessary for you to ever use that language outside of a classroom setting. When you’re in desperate need of finding a bathroom, or asking a stranger for directions or simply flirting with an attractive local at the bar, learning the language of that country is suddenly a priority. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can pick up on different dialects and adapt unique accents when you’re constantly immersed in it.
5. It teaches a lesson in personal responsibility
When you’re on your own thousands of miles away from home, you don’t have your mom, or your roommate or your significant other to do damage control when something’s gone wrong. If you have a problem, that’s on you to fix it. It may be one of the only times in your life when you have to be nearly completely self-sufficient, and while difficult to get used to at first, it can be extremely rewarding as you learn just how much power you have over your own life.
6. You can gain a better sense of who you are
Your day-to-day life, since the day you were born, has largely been shaped by the places you’ve lived, the people you’ve surrounded yourself with, the jobs you’ve held and so on. Now that you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone away from the things you thought defined you, it’s easier to clearly see what it is that makes you-you. There’s more time to listen to your inner thoughts, internalize personal conflicts and act without inhibitions.
7. You’ll come home with a trove of stories that are beyond compare
Once you’ve successfully done the very thing that everyone was skeptical of, it’s time to come home and start bragging. You’ve proved that you are responsible, adventurous, independent and above all else, just plain awesome. While everyone else was back home doing the same thing day in and day out, you’ve amassed a repertoire of tales that most people can only dream of. Break out the photos and start preaching to others about why they too shouldn’t be afraid to travel solo.